First, pilot: In pilot selection, they don't look at your degree, they look at your GPA. A 3.6 in Business is better scored than a 3.2 in aero engineering. The one thing that really helps you, if pilot is the way you want to go, is already having your private pilot's license. That being said, the one thing the aero engineering degree will get you above your biz major competitors is a chance at being a test pilot. To be a test pilot, you need an engineering degree for either pilot or engineer. These are the best of the pilots who get to fly all of the latest toys. Your other next step from pilot is astronaut. The astronaut program also requires a scientific or engineering degree. Since so few people go up at any one time, everyone needs some sort of technical inclination.
Next, scientist. 61xx career track. You become a lab monkey and do the pure R&D. Very few jobs here, many outsourced.
Next, 62E3x, aeronautical and aerospace engineer. As of about 1993, the Air Force required that you actually have a degree in the field you qualify for (vice being a Mechanical and moving into aero). You would be part of the acquisition force, see Air Force Materiel Command web site. While some lab jobs offer the opportunity to design, most often you'll manage contractors that do. However, there is also Aircraft Battle Damage Repair (ABDR), It's a special position which you must be assigned to one of the Air Force Depots to do and must have an aero degree. Essentially, you train to deploy to near the front lines to develop on-site repairs for aircraft which have sustained damage beyond which the normal repair book specify a repair can be made. i.e., you get em to fly home or 1 more mission. You think doing stress analysis is difficult in a class, try it after wearing MOPP gear for 8 hours. :-D I did for a few years for the A-10. Great experience.
Program Manager. 63Ax. Essentially, as the name sounds, you manage acquisition programs. You're the core of the AFMC workforce. When I started, 1992, engineer (62E3x) was a dead end after Major. Very hard to promote. Even now, look and see how many General officers have engineering backgrounds. So, many suggested doing a joint qualification of 62 and 63 since with 63 you can go all the way. At 27 years of age, I designed and was lead engineer for two software development programs, each with over a $40 million annual budget. Hard to get that experience civy-side.
While I never had the opportunity, there are also rocket launchers and other such jobs.
As I understand it, even today, engineers have become so scare that it is the only career field (beside pilot) for which the Air Force offers an annual bonus for staying in. So, this may have modified the promotion opportunities too.
Unless you have a lab job, chances are you will be doing little hands-on engineering. Quite often, you'll apply your knowledge to manage others. On the good side, what I can tell you is this, if you ever separate and go into the civilian world, you will be one of the few engineers who truly know how to effectively communicate with a broad range of people and truly understand both the big picture and the minute.
If you have any detailed questions about being an aero engineer, a program manager, about ABDR, or the Air Force in general, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Army? Well, from what I knew working with some Army officers, the Army does less aeronautical R&D. Most of those weapon platforms are owned by the Air Force. The Army does like to move you about to different jobs and make you well rounded, though. This is in opposition to the Air Force which likes to pigeon-hole you in one category. This will be especially true if you do become an engineer. If they are still that short, they won't want you to leave that career track. Much more about the Army, I can't say.
Best of luck.
Answered By: dynamic_eigenvalue - 12/19/2007